Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Cuneiform's New Releases for June 2016: The Claudia Quintet, Deus Ex Machina, I.P.A.



OUT TODAY,
JUNE 24, 2016!
CUNEIFORM RECORDS'
JUNE / SUMMER 2016 RELEASES
:

THE CLAUDIA QUINTET
SUPER PETITE

DEUS EX MACHINA
DEVOTO


I.P.A.
I JUST DID SAY SOMETHING

___

The internet is a wild and wondrous frontier windswept by gales of information, whirlwinds of sonic, textual and visual debris. Anything uploaded can be lost in this dust storm - and ANYthing found. Neuro-researchers are exploring how prolonged immersion in this swirling-virtual-info-dervish impacts the organic human brain. Some of us think we already know. Attention spans are eroding. Everyone wants information NOW, quicker-faster-shorter-blunter. In part that's because, like audiences stage rushing in hardcore punk's harder-faster-louder days, they're addicted to bytes, to the rush. But it's also because the white-noise info debris-field bewilders and blinds. Overwhelmed by immensity, we desire the super petite to hold in our hand, comprehend in a glance, and explore, savor, layer by petite layer, as if it were a fragrant orange.

Today, on June 24, 2016, Cuneiform releases its three Summer 2016 New Releases. They consist of two jazz & beyond recordings - The Claudia Quintet's Super Petite and I.P.A.'s Did I Just Say Something - and one rock & beyond disc, Deus Ex Machina's Devoto. Amidst the blizzard of new albums that sweep by you daily, we thank you for taking the time to stop, read, and closely listen to these three rich sonic fruits at hand.

The album Super Petite, by composer/percussionist/drummer and Grammy nominee John Hollenbeck's signature ensemble, The Claudia Quintet, is one of 2016's most highly anticipated jazz albums. Cuneiform has released 7 recordings by this vastly influential small ensemble, each a unique artistic statement yet each distinctly "Claudia" in sound, with unique instrumentation and compositions that extend post-jazz towards classical, minimalist and other musics. For this album, Claudia's 8th, Hollenbeck composed a series of intentionally compact tunes. The resulting Super Petite is a small masterpiece, a tiny jewel box of 10 concise songs packed with compositional brilliance that can be either explored in depth, layer by layer, or grasped rapidly for their tangible popular appeal. To support Super Petite's release, The Claudia Quintet is doing an extensive North American tour in June and festival shows in October; see their tour dates below and catch one of their superb live shows.

Also released on June 24th is an album by another jazz quintet, this one hailing from across the Atlantic. A quintessential 21st century all-star Scandinavian quintet, I.P.A. compiles its members from across Scandinavia, recruiting some of Norways and Sweden’s best jazz musicians.  Its music embraces a world of jazz influences, resonating well beyond Nordic shores. In the band's 4th album and Cuneiform debut, the aptly-titled album, I Just Did Say Something, I.P.A. explores the limits of form/composition and freedom/improvisation and extracts the finest fruit of its travels to create a powerful musical statement.

Cuneiform's third Summer 2016 release - Devoto, the 8th release by Italian rock / progressive / fusion group Deus Ex Machina - will come as a welcome surprise to longtime progressive rockers, while also appealling to young rock & beyond fans looking for a vocal paradigm that shatters mundane. The band is fronted by one of the most extraordinary vocalists in rock, Alberto Piras, who All Music Guide calls "amazing, somehow able to combine the soul of a Robert Plant or a Paul Rodgers with the high pitched scream control of Slash or Geddy Lee." Guided by his human voice, a spiritual thread runs through Devoto: the need for us, for mankind, to reconnect with the Earth and reaffirm our bond, our oneness, with the living planet and the cycle of life. Deus Ex Machina call for us to step away from the internet's cold virtual spell, wipe the info blizzard from our eyes, and to return to the pulse of the flesh. Deus Ex Machina will appear in the flesh in September, headlining the 2016 ProgDay festival in North Carolina in September; it will be their first US performance since 2001's NearFest.

In addition to considering Cuneiform's June 2016 releases, we ask you to support live music by Cuneiform's artists. While we encourage you to watch our artists in videos on Cuneiform's YouTube Channel and on the DVDs that Cuneiform's released across the years (including Deus Ex Machina's 2008 Imparis), there is no experience comparable watching a band play live. Please see Cuneiform's Tour Page to see upcoming shows by all of our artists, and especially Summer 2016 shows by artists with new Spring/May (Rez Abbasi & Junction; Bent Knee; Thumbscrew) and Summer/June (The Claudia Quintet, Deus Ex Machina; I.P.A.) releases on Cuneiform.

Both Bent Knee and The Claudia Quintet are currently on extensive tours; see our tour eblasts for Bent Knee and Claudia for more information. While we've long been in contact with you on the internet, we look forward to meeting many of you in person one day, at one of our artist's shows!

Best regards
Joyce
Director of Publicity & Promotion, Cuneiform Records
with
Javier
Director of Digital Promotion

--------------------------

CUNEIFORM'S NEW RELEASES:
JUNE / SUMMER 2016

The Claudia Quintet
Super Petite
Genre: Jazz / Post-Jazz
Release Date: 6/24/2016
"JFK Beagle"
stream: @SoundCloud / @Bandcamp / @YouTube
Deus Ex Machina
Devoto
Genre: Rock / Progressive / Fusion
Release Date: 6/24/2016
"Figli (Sons)"
stream: @SoundCloud / @Bandcamp / @YouTube
I.P.A.
I Just Did Say Something
Genre: Jazz
Release Date: 6/24/2016
"Sir William"
stream: @SoundCloud / @Bandcamp / @YouTube

The following albums have just been released this month:
MAY 2016 [OUT NOW!]


Rez Abbasi & Junction - Behind the Vibration
Genre: Jazz / Jazz-Rock / Electric Jazz / Fusion, Release Date: 5/20/2016
On tour now!


Bent Knee - Say So
Genre: Rock / Indie Rock / Art-Rock / Pop / Avant-Progressive, Release Date: 5/20/2016
On tour now!


Thumbscrew: Mary Halvorson, Michael Formanek, Tomas Fujiwara - Convallaria
Genre: Jazz, Release Date: 5/20/2016
On tour now!
-----


CUNEIFORM'S NEW RELEASES
JUNE / SUMMER 2016

Acclaimed Drummer-Composer John Hollenbeck
Pens Rich, Complex Tunes for an Era of Short Attention Spans
on THE CLAUDIA QUINTET's 8th album
SUPER PETITE

a Potent Package that Condenses Virtuoso Playing
and a Wealth of Ideas into Ten Compact Songs



THE CLAUDIA QUINTET
SUPER PETITE

STREAM/SHARE: "JFK Beagle"
stream: @SoundCloud / @Bandcamp / @YouTube

Cat. #: Rune 427, Format: CD / Digital Download
Genre: Jazz / Post-Jazz
Release Date: June 24, 2016

Short doesn’t necessarily mean simple. Drummer-composer John Hollenbeck acrobatically explores the dichotomy between brevity and complexity on Super Petite, the eighth release by the critically acclaimed, proudly eccentric Claudia Quintet. The oxymoronic title of the band’s newest album on Cuneiform Records captures the essence of its ten new compositions, which pack all of the wit and virtuosity that listeners have come to expect from the Claudia Quintet into the time frame of radio-friendly pop songs.

As always, Hollenbeck’s uncategorizable music – which bridges the worlds of modern jazz and new music in surprising and inventive ways - is realized by Claudia’s longstanding line-up: clarinetist/tenor saxophonist Chris Speed, vibraphonist Matt Moran, bassist Drew Gress, and accordionist Red Wierenga. Over the course of 19 years and 8 albums, the band has forged an astounding chemistry and become expert at juggling mind-boggling dexterity with inviting emotion and spirit.

Like the band’s name, the title Super Petite originated as an affectionate nickname for one of the band’s fans. “I thought that was a funny juxtaposition,” Hollenbeck recalls, “but it also became a good frame for the album because the tunes are short but can also be grand in a way - just not in length.”

The concept was both a personal challenge for Hollenbeck as a composer always dealing with a wealth of ideas, but also a reaction to a tendency in modern music toward the epic. “I’m feeling things in the opposite direction,” the composer explains. “When tunes are longer, there tend to be moments when not a whole lot is happening. If you have a really short tune, the whole thing has to be compelling.”

Nowhere is that principle better exemplified than in “Pure Poem,” which clocks in at under two minutes but is the most difficult piece the quintet has ever recorded. It was inspired by “Pure Poem 1007-1103” by Japanese poet Shigeru Matsui, which consists solely of sequences of Roman numerals and was used by controversial poet Kenneth Goldsmith to illustrate his theory of “Uncreative Writing.”

Hollenbeck draws inspiration from a number of diverse sources throughout Super Petite, including two unrecognizable interpretations of classic jazz – which, in its earliest years, demanded short songs due to the limitations of the day’s recording media. The mesmerizing “Nightbreak,” which opens the album, is built upon a slowed-down translation of Charlie Parker’s famous break in “Night of Tunisia,” while “Philly” transforms an infamous Philly Joe Jones lick into an exercise in bebop deconstruction.

Two variations on the same theme, “JFK Beagle” and “Newark Beagle”, were sparked by the contraband-sniffing dogs that patrol the international baggage claim area of airports. They are the living embodiment of Super Petite – utterly adorable but all business. “My problem is I want to pet the beagles but they’re so focused on that one thing,” Hollenbeck laments. “That piece began as a portrait, a combination of being really cute but staying focused. I don't know exactly what that would sound like musically, but that’s the challenge. In the end it doesn’t really matter to me if it happens or not, because it still leads me into a certain world.” In this case, the idea of international travel inspired Hollenbeck to use his passport number as a series of pitches that formed the basis for the pieces.

Similarly, “If You Seek a Fox” began life as a dig at the composer’s least favorite 24-hour cable news network, then morphed into an aural description of the eponymous animal. “A-List” began with an even more fantastical scenario, imagining the Claudia Quintet walking the red carpet. (“Think Entourage meets the Geek Squad,” as Hollenbeck wryly puts it in his liner notes.) If the tune’s urgent pulse is unlikely to attract the paparazzi, it’s nonetheless a compelling mood piece that Hollenbeck insists “feels almost like a Led Zeppelin tune in our heads.”

“Peterborough” was written in the titular New Hampshire town, where Hollenbeck spent six idyllic weeks in the fall of 2014 as a resident artist at the famed MacDowell Colony. It was there that Aaron Copland composed his Pulitzer-winning “Appalachian Spring,” which inspired the hint of Coplandesque American optimism in Hollenbeck’s combination of clarinet and vibes. The residency also provided the opportunity to explore the work of master Senegalese drummer/composer Doudou N’Diaye Rose, whose “Rose Rhythm” forms the basis for Hollenbeck’s “Rose-Colored Rhythm.”

Hollenbeck describes the MacDowell Colony as “a beautiful space where you can do whatever you want all day and no one bothers you. You can work hard all day on something, but you can also get out and ride a bike or run if you want. Then in the evening you see all these other people from different disciplines who have been doing the same thing as you, talk about what they’re doing, go to bed and do it all again the next day.”

The album concludes with “Mangolds,” a mood piece built from a slow, elongated melody line named for Hollenbeck’s favorite vegetarian restaurant in Graz, Austria, where he worked with the renowned Jazz Bigband Graz on his 2006 release Joys and Desires.

PROMOTIONAL TRACK //
If you'd like to share music from this release, please feel free to use the following track:
"JFK Beagle": @SoundCloud / @Bandcamp / @YouTube

PRE-ORDER LINKS
//
ITUNES - AMAZON - BANDCAMP - WAYSIDE MUSIC

ARTIST WEB SITES //
www.claudiaquintet.com - www.johnhollenbeck.com/band/the-claudia-quintet - www.facebook.com/ClaudiaQuintet/ - www.twitter.com/claudiaquintet

THE CLAUDIA QUINTET - TOUR DATES: 2016
//

June 22
8:00pm
USA Secret Society
116 NE Russell St.
Portland, OR 97212
(with Blue Cranes)
June 23 USA Blue Whale
Weller Court Plaza 3rd floor
123 Astronaut E S Onizuka St. Suite.301
Los Angeles, CA 90012
June 24
7:30pm
USA Musical Instrument Museum
4725 E. Mayo Boulevard
Phoenix, AZ
June 25 USA Athenaeum Music & Arts Library
1008 Wall Street
La Jolla, CA
June 29
6:30pm
CA Ottawa Jazz Festival
National Arts Centre Back Stage
Ottawa, Canada
June 30
6:30pm
9:00pm
USA Rochester Jazz Festival
Xerox Auditorium at Xerox Plaza
Rochester, NY
October 12 CA L'Off Festival
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
October 26 USA Edgefest
Kerrytown Concerthouse
Ann Arbor, MI
-----

Fronted by Alberto Piras,
one of the most Extraordinary Vocalists in all of Rock,
and Featuring Stunning Instrumentals,
Italian Progressive Rock/Fusion Maestros DEUS EX MACHINA
return with DEVOTO,
a Musical Missile Shot Straight from the Heart
- the Band’s Most Direct, Visceral Album to Date -




DEUS EX MACHINA
DEVOTO

STREAM/SHARE: "Figli (Sons)"
stream: @SoundCloud / @Bandcamp / @YouTube

Cat. #: Rune 429, Format: CD / Digital Download
Genre: Rock / Progressive / Fusion
Release Date: June 24, 2016

Following an eight-year absence, the Italian rock/progressive group Deus Ex Machina bursts back onto the international scene with Devoto, its 8th album and first release since ImparisImparis, a live DVD/studio CD Cuneiform combo that included both new material and a look back at DEM's earlier discography, astonished audiences worldwide when released in 2008, garnering star ratings and prompting All Music Guide to call DEM “one of the most extraordinary bands in the entire music universe”. Blazing into contemporary focus with Devoto, Deus Ex Machina is poised to transcend the accomplishments of its past. In Devoto, this phenomenal band sharpens its musical focus and expands its conceptual depth to create a release that is nuclear in its power and universal in its spiritual, emotional, and musical appeal. A spiritual thread runs through Devoto: the need for us, for mankind, for all humanity, to reconnect with the Earth and reaffirm our bond, our oneness, with the living planet and the cycle of life.

Devoto retains Deus Ex Machina’s distinctive blend of fiery, complexly designed music, passionate bel canto vocals, virtuosic instrumental performances and analogue-heavy textures. Here as before, DEM’s music combines both the energy and beauty of early Mahavishnu Orchestra and Larks' Tongues in Aspic-era King Crimson; the contrapuntal complexity of Gentle Giant; hints of RIO-tinged avant-prog; and the unmistakable Mediterranean vibe of fellow Ital-progsters like PFM and Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso. But just as each successive album has represented something different yet still unmistakably, unequivocally DEM, Devoto takes a more direct, immediate approach: a more hard-hitting, gut-punching, visceral Deus Ex Machina.

"After Imparis [the 2008 live/studio Cuneiform release], we faced a lack of energy which was, in part, due to [keyboardist] Fabrizio Puglisi’s departure from the band," explains Deus Ex Machina's Alberto Piras, one of progressive music's most original and exhilarating vocalists. "We needed to understand where we wanted to go and whether we would be capable of continuing to make DEM music. The recording of Devoto was quite quick, but was the result of a very long, thoughtful process. In the meantime, other members of the band had (and still have) other projects, including Alessandro Bonetti, who plays violin with PFM, and drummer Claudio Trotta, who works with many other musicians.

"Our idea was to test different ground than we had before; still being DEM, but with a more straightforward, simple musical language in the context of dense and relevant compositions," Piras continues. "This is what we think rock is about: its simplicity, but also its expressive richness. We tried to compose 'easier' songs, still full of emotion and intensity."

Indeed, Devoto may surprise longtime fans; guitarist Mauro Collina - in addition to providing his characteristically sophisticated harmonic support in conjunction with keyboardist Luigi Ricciardiello (returning, following a two-decade hiatus, to replace Puglisi) - delivers one of his most flat-out rocking solos during the funky middle section of "Autore del Futoro" ("Author of the Future"). And even as he resorts to some atypically rootsy slide acoustic and electric guitar on the appropriately titled "Quattro Piccole Mani" ("Four Small Hands") - a five-minute instrumental that, barring some spare use of Terry Riley-like organ and, in its final minute, a touch of bass guitar, is a layered solo feature for the guitarist - Collina's more identifiably oblique approach to his instrument remains a DEM touchstone.

What may pass for "straightforward and simple" for Deus Ex Machina is still orders of magnitude more challenging than most. The episodic "Più Uguale" (“More Equal") opens with an inimitably DEM guitar riff - metrically challenging and bolstered by Trotta's thundering kit work and Luigi Savino's muscular bass lines - leading to an incendiary double-time vocal section where Piras soars above a mêlée of overdriven guitars and gritty Hammond organ before another solo section emerges, with Collina combining quirky chordal stops-and-starts, bluesy bends, funkified riffing and light-speed phrases. Time shifts yet again, with the group settling into one of its funkiest grooves ever, providing a foundation for Ricciardiello to layer some punchy Hammond organ that ultimately reveals one of the album's most deceptive (and seemingly) non sequiturs, as everyone fades out but the keyboardist, who appears to bring the composition to a close with layers of synths slowly building to an electro-centric finish, Minimoog lines contrapuntally interweaving earlier motifs and ultimately coming to an abrupt halt. But even so, this 10-minute tour-de-force isn't over yet, as a final gong splash and a gradually slowing synth sequence finally brings the composition to its final conclusion.

"We want our fans to feel our blood flowing on this record, which is somewhat in contrast to a tradition that describes us as 'brainy and difficult,'" says Piras. "So we wrote and played our songs more from our guts than from our heads."

Written solely in Italian - an atypical contrast to previous albums, where Piras often sang Latin lyrics - Devoto is not a concept album in the traditional sense, but it does possess a spiritual thread that runs through its ten tracks, represented by the tree of life on the album's captivating cover, "...to show how man cannot feel superior to anything on this planet," Piras explains. "Devoto is about responsible choices and the need to reconnect our humanity to our planet. Today, more than ever, we are suffering from the effect of our detachment from the Earth; we've lost the meaning of existence, represented by a pinnacle of individualism and self-worship. With Devoto, we describe this uncomfortable feeling and propose solutions that originate from what has always made humans feel alive and full of meaning: the Earth and our children."

As ever, Piras and Collina were the primary songwriters, but how the songs ultimately took shape was, indeed, a group effort. "Composition has always been very easy for Mauro and I," explains Piras. "We bring the material to the band and adjust the songs together; then I write the lyrics and adapt them to the music."

Still, despite Devoto's more direct approach, there's plenty of compositional depth to satisfy existing Deus Ex Machina fans while appealing, with its rougher edges, to those unfamiliar with the unparalleled musical universe gradually shaped by a band now approaching its 30th anniversary. Piras and Collina may be the compositional heart of the group, but Deus Ex Machina would not be what it has evolved to be without Bonetti, whose fiery violin work pushes the propulsive title track to even greater heights.  Bonetti's similarly intense but lengthier solo on the broad-scoped "Figli" ("Sons") is just one more reason why - together with some of Piras' most impassioned vocals, Collina's angular contributions, Ricciardiello and Luigi Savino's cinematic keyboard colors and Porreca and Trotta's maelstrom-like yet in-the-pocket rhythmic support - Devoto represents an evolutionary shift from past releases, but still remains unequivocally Deus Ex Machina.

A three-piece horn section graces some of Devoto with an unusual blend of baritone and alto saxophones, augmented by trumpet, to add heft and weight to the knotty "Distratto Da Me" (“Distracted By Me"), while the group demonstrates its ability to wax more atmospheric on the keyboard-driven miniature "Sotterfiugui" ("Subterfuge"), rely entirely on acoustic instrumentation on the short "Eterno Ritorno" ("Eternal Return") and create ballads like "Autore del Futoro" ("Author of the Future") that paradoxically combine ethereal elegance with booty-shaking grooves.

Deus Ex Machina garnered critical praise from its inception in the late 1980s, when it hit the ground running by staging an ambitious rock opera. Too costly for a long run, it nevertheless led to the group's 1991 recorded debut of the opera (completed in just two days), Gallium Cæli. In the final decade of the 20th century, prior to signing with Cuneiform, Deux Ex Machina released three additional studio albums - 1992's Deus Ex Machina, 1995's De Republica and 1998's Equilibrium da Insofferenza - along with two live albums: 1996's Diachronia Metronomiche and 1997's vinyl-only Non Est Ars Quae ad Effectum Casus Venit - all on the Italian Kaliphonia imprint. But it was upon joining the Cuneiform roster in 2002 with the release of Cinque - widely considered to be amongst the group's best work - that Deus Ex Machina began to garner broader international praise. Of Cinque, AllMusicGuide writes "This remains pure Deus Ex Machina: lyrical, provoking, and genre-pushing." Exposé describes Imparis as "Driving, aggressive fusion mixed with wickedly complex rhythms, hints of RIO/avant-garde sounds, and Alberto Piras’ unbelievable vocal skills," while All About Jazz enthuses that "what's best about Imparis is the opportunity to follow Deus Ex Machina from its prog-metal beginnings to the more sophisticated group it is today. Everyone in DEM is a virtuoso."

Devoto may have been a long time coming, but it's been more than worth the wait.  "It took about a year-and-a-half, going very slow. We started to record with a mobile studio in a farmhouse; for ten days we set the whole valley on fire with our wall of sound," Piras says. "Then we started the mixing phase, which took quite a long time, filled with a number of setbacks...including Mauro’s finger. When we'd finished recording in the farmhouse and had started cleaning up, while shaking and folding the carpets I broke Mauro’s left hand finger. At first we thought it was OK, but then we saw that two phalanges were at a 90o angle...Mauro almost fainted!"

Thankfully, Collina has fully recovered and, with the release of Devoto, Deus Ex Machina continues to prepare even more new material while rehearsing for upcoming live dates. Prepare yourself to revel in the gripping punch and the more direct - yet still compositionally dense and intense - music of Devoto; like every album in its remarkable career, both a consolidation of what has come before...and a clear signpost of things to come.

PROMOTIONAL TRACK //
If you'd like to share music from this release, please feel free to use the following track:
"Figli (Sons)": @SoundCloud / @Bandcamp / @YouTube

PRE-ORDER LINKS
//
ITUNES - AMAZON - BANDCAMP - WAYSIDE MUSIC

ARTIST WEB SITES //
Deus Ex Machina on CuneiformRecords.com

DEUS EX MACHINA - TOUR DATES: 2016 //

Sep 3 & 4
USA ProgDay
Storybook Farm
One Storybook Lane
Chapel Hill, NC 27516
(this will be their only USA appearance!)

-----

Powerhouse Scandinavian Quintet I.P.A. Explores
the Jagged Contours of Form and Freedom on its Cuneiform Debut,
I JUST DID SAY SOMETHING



I.P.A.
I Just Did Say Something

STREAM/SHARE: "Sir William"
stream: @SoundCloud / @Bandcamp / @YouTube

Cat. #: Rune 422, Format: CD / Digital Download
Genre: Jazz
Release Date: June 24, 2016

Maybe it’s the region’s boundless but stark natural beauty or its internationally envied social order, but whatever the cause Scandinavia has nurtured a particularly vivid jazz scene marked by a tantalizing balance of form and freedom. Over the past decade the quintet I.P.A. has come to embody the best of this volatile sensibility, which makes sense as the band draws its players from definitive Nordic ensembles such as Atomic, Motif, Ensemble Denada, Trondheim Jazz Orchestra, and The Thing. I Just Did Say Something is I.P.A.’s fourth release and its first recording on the USA-based label Cuneiform. The quintet’s most exhilarating statement yet, it’s the work of a band fully alive to its own power, while eagerly investigating new directions.

Featuring Oslo-based Atle Nymo on tenor saxophone and bass clarinet, Norwegian-born, Austin, Texas-based bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten, Trondheim drummer Håkon Mjåset Johansen, and Stockholm’s Magnus Broo on trumpet and Mattias Ståhl on vibraphone, I.P.A. is strongly influenced by the seminal 1960s work of Don Cherry and Ornette Coleman. Harmonically unfettered, rhythmically unpredictable, and melodically unvarnished, the quintet thrives on live-wire interaction, with rapidly intersecting lines that swoop and collide, disentangle and divide.

“We have melodies, but not really structured melodies,” says Nymo, one of the band’s primary composers. “We’re definitely influenced by Don Cherry. I see us as part of this Scandinavian jazz scene, but we’re open to influences from all over.”

I Just Did Say Something kicks off in high gear with Nymo’s “Kort Hilsen,” an exploration of cellular improvisation flowing from three brief phrases that expand, constrict, and blend through the course of the steeplechase (the title is Norwegian for “brief hello”). From the frantic to the sublime, Nymo’s arrangement of the traditional Balinese theme “Sayembara” explores the metallophone qualities of the vibes, connecting a distinctly Ornettish approach to phrasing with the cadences of gamelan. It’s an ingenious piece that sounds unlike anything else on the contemporary scene. Nymo concludes his winning, opening trifecta with the woozy ballad “Naked Ø,” a hymn-like summons inspired sonically and conceptually by Swedish ethnomusicologist, drummer, and composer Bengt Berger classic 1981 ECM recording Bitter Funeral Beer (featuring Don Cherry’s pocket trumpet).

The album takes an Ellingtonian turn with Ståhl’s “Majken,” a playful melody introduced and concluded by Broo’s Cootie Williamseque solo trumpet. Propelled by Johansen’s dancing brush work, Ståhl delivers a shimmering passage that eventually coaxes the saxophones into the fray. Ståhl’s bouncy five-note theme “Slakt Sving” takes the quintet in a different direction. A loose and limber tune that waxes and wanes in density, it inspires a searching tenor solo by Nymo.

Broo also contributes two incisive tunes to the proceedings, with the mood-shifting, Caribbean-inflected “Sir William” and the elegant “Barbro Violet,” a spacious arrangement that keys on the transparent textures of the brushes, vibes and bass. The album closes with Flaten’s joyous title track, a piece that captures much of what makes I.P.A.’s music irresistible. Deceptively simple at the start, the tune’s celebratory feel gradually takes on a frenzied air, like a party in the wee hours when restraint no longer holds. In the end, no one is hurt and nothing is broken, but the intimations of danger and freedom leave you eager for the next celebration.

I.P.A.’s origins go back to 2007 when Nymo, Flaten and Johansen released their electrifying interpretation of Don Cherry’s classic 1966 Blue Note album Complete Communion on the Norwegian label Bolage. When Broo joined forces with the triumvirate the following year, I.P.A. was born. The quartet introduced itself on Bolage with two critically hailed albums, 2009’s Lorena and 2011’s It’s A Delicate Thing. By 2014’s Bubble, which came out on the top-shelf Swedish indie Moserobie, vibes master Mattias Ståhl had expanded the band to a quintet and All About Jazz proclaimed the ensemble “one of the best kept secrets in the fertile Nordic musical scenery.”

“Adding Mattias really opens up the possibilities,” Nymo says. “He’s a fantastic player, and helped us expand the colors and how we interact within the band.”

Born in Valnesfjord near Fauske, Norway, Atle Nymo has been a standout on the Norwegian jazz scene since the turn of the century. In 2001 he earned the Young Nordic Jazz Comet award with the band Motif, and went on to collaborate with artists such as John Taylor, Palle Danielsson, Bugge Wesseltoft, Chick Corea and Pat Metheny. In addition to I.P.A., he works in bands like Motif, Trondheim Jazz Orchestra, and Ensemble Denada, which earned the 2010 ECHO Deutscher Musikpreis Jazz Award for big band album of the year.

The senior member of the band, Magnus Broo was born in Småland, Sweden, and was already a well-established international figure when he joined I.P.A. A graduate of North Texas State University, he first gained widespread notice in the band Atomic. He’s released a series of acclaimed quartet sessions under his own name, while also recording widely with Swedish guitarist Fredrik Nordström and Chicago saxophonist Ken Vandermark.

Hailing from Oppdal, Norway, Ingebrigt Håker Flaten spent his formative years in the mid ‘90s studying at Trondheim Music Conservatory. Before the end of the decade he had performed widely with The Source, the Maria Kannegaard Trio, the Paul Bley-inspired trio Close Erase, and the Coltrane-inspired quartet Element. Settled in Oslo by 1996, he became one of the busiest bassists on the scene, performing and recording prolifically with Petter Wettre in The Trio, Jazzmob, Bugge Wesseltoft's Sharing, School Days, The Scorch Trio (with Raoul Björkenheim and Paal Nilssen-Love), and The Thing (a trio with Nilssen-Love and Mats Gustafsson). Before joining I.P.A. he had worked extensively with Broo in the all-star band Atomic. Since moving to Austin, Texas in 2009, Flaten has honed an expanding network of improvisers, relationships manifested in his band, The Young Mothers, with drummers Stefan Gonzalez and Frank Rosaly, trumpeter/poet/rapper Jawaad Taylor, saxophonist Jason Jackson, and guitarist Jonathan Horne.

Drummer Håkon Mjåset Johansen was born and raised in Trondheim, Norway, where he gained early attention playing with the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra featuring Chick Corea at Moldejazz in 2000. He’s earned a series of awards and distinctions, including the coveted Kongsberg Jazz Award in 2013. As essential member of several high profile ensembles, he’s toured and recorded with Come Shine, Urban Connection, Svein Olav Herstad Trio, Excess Luggage, Maryland, and most visibly, Motif.

The band’s latest addition, vibraphonist Mattias Ståhl, was born in Oskarshamn, Sweden and lives in Stockholm. His quartet Ståhls Blå released two critically hailed albums featuring his original compositions, earning Ståhl the Swedish Radio Award 2002 as newcomer of the year. A busy sideman, he’s performed and recorded with the award-winning Fredrik Nordström Quintet, Klaus Holm Kollektif, Emil Svanängen (aka Loney Dear), Cecilia Persson Quintet, Martin Küchen’s Angles, and legendary bassist/composer Georg Riedel.

While all committed to an array of bands and projects, the five musicians in I.P.A. have found kindred exploratory spirits in the band. With I Just Did Say Something the combo has staked a larger claim, coming close to capturing the full creative breadth of this all-star ensemble.

“We really cover a lot of ground,” Nymo says. “That’s something we realized while making this record. This is what we sound like now, but we’re already off in new directions.”

PROMOTIONAL TRACK //
If you'd like to share music from this release, please feel free to use the following track:
"Sir William": @SoundCloud / @Bandcamp / @YouTube

PRE-ORDER LINKS
//
ITUNES - AMAZON - BANDCAMP - WAYSIDE MUSIC

ARTIST WEB SITES //
www.atlenymo.com/i-p-a/ - www.facebook.com/IPAJAZZ
I.P.A. on CuneiformRecords.com

Thursday, June 9, 2016

John Hollenbeck's Claudia Quintet tours North America Summer/Fall 2016; celebrating 'Super Petite'



To Celebrate the Release of
THE CLAUDIA QUINTET'S 8th Album,
Super Petite
- a Miniature Masterpiece of 10 Concise & Compositionally Brilliant Tunes -
Acclaimed Drummer-Composer
John Hollenbeck
Announces a
US/Canada TOUR for Summer & Fall 2016

 
[The Claudia Quintet | photo credit: Signe Maehler]

"This is a true ensemble from top to bottom, a sonic equivalent to a hand-woven tapestry. ...Impressive." - Peter Margasak, DownBeat


// THE CLAUDIA QUINTET SUPER PETITE TOUR:
SUMMER-FALL 2016
//


June 18
8:00pm
9:30pm
USA San Francisco Jazz Center
201 Franklin St
San Francisco, CA
June 19
8:00pm
9:30pm
USA San Francisco Jazz Center
201 Franklin St
San Francisco, CA
June 21
8:00pm
USA Earshot Festival
Cornish College of the Arts
PONCHO Concert Hall, Kerry Hall
710 E Roy St
Seattle, WA 98102
June 22
8:00pm
USA Secret Society
116 NE Russell St.
Portland, OR 97212
(with Blue Cranes)
June 23
9:00pm
USA Blue Whale
Weller Court Plaza 3rd floor
123 Astronaut E S Onizuka St. Suite.301
Los Angeles, CA 90012
June 24
7:30pm
USA Musical Instrument Museum
4725 E. Mayo Boulevard
Phoenix, AZ
June 25
7:30pm
USA Athenaeum Music & Arts Library
1008 Wall Street
La Jolla, CA
June 29
6:00pm
CA Ottawa Jazz Festival
National Arts Centre Back Stage
Ottawa, Canada
June 30
6:30pm
9:00pm
USA Rochester Jazz Festival
Xerox Auditorium at Xerox Plaza
Rochester, NY
October 12 CA L'Off Festival
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
October 27 USA Edgefest
Kerrytown Concerthouse
Ann Arbor, MI


[WATCH: Claudia Quintet plays "Arabic" - Live at Jazz Baltica, 2009]

----



THE CLAUDIA QUINTET
SUPER PETITE


STREAM/SHARE: "JFK Beagle"
stream: @SoundCloud / @Bandcamp / @YouTube

Cat. #: Rune 427, Format: CD / Digital Download
Genre: Jazz / Post-Jazz
Release Date: June 24, 2016

Super Petite Track Listing:

1. Nightbreak (6:00)
2. JFK Beagle (3:29)
3. A-List (5:19)
4. Philly (5:14)
5. Peterborough (4:13)
6. Rose Colored Rhythm (8:24)
7. If you seek a Fox (4:16)
8. Pure Poem (1:53)
9. Newark Beagle (3:20)
10. mangold (4:12)

Recorded at Brooklyn Recording in 2015
on the birthday of Chuck D and Nana Vasconcelos.
Recorded and mixed by Andy Taub.
Assistant Engineer: Don Piper.
Music produced by John Hollenbeck.
Mastered by Brent Lambert at The Kitchen Mastering.

Design by karlssonwilker inc.

This work was made possible by the generous support of the
Doris Duke Performing Artists Awards Program.

All compositions by John Hollenbeck, Grand Blvd. Music (ASCAP/GEMA), 2016.

------

Acclaimed Drummer-Composer John Hollenbeck
Pens Rich, Complex Tunes for an Era of Short Attention Spans
on THE CLAUDIA QUINTET's 8th album
- SUPER PETITE -

a Potent Package that Condenses Virtuoso Playing
and a Wealth of Ideas into Ten Compact Songs

Short doesn't necessarily mean simple. Drummer-composer John Hollenbeck acrobatically explores the dichotomy between brevity and complexity on Super Petite, the eighth release by the critically acclaimed, proudly eccentric Claudia Quintet. The oxymoronic title of the band's newest album on Cuneiform Records captures the essence of its ten new compositions, which pack all of the wit and virtuosity that listeners have come to expect from the Claudia Quintet into the time frame of radio-friendly pop songs.

As always, Hollenbeck's uncategorizable music - which bridges the worlds of modern jazz and new music in surprising and inventive ways - is realized by Claudia's longstanding line-up: clarinetist/tenor saxophonist Chris Speed, vibraphonist Matt Moran, bassist Drew Gress, and accordionist Red Wierenga. Over the course of 19 years and 8 albums, the band has forged an astounding chemistry and become expert at juggling mind-boggling dexterity with inviting emotion and spirit.

Like the band's name, the title Super Petite originated as an affectionate nickname for one of the band's fans. "I thought that was a funny juxtaposition," Hollenbeck recalls, "but it also became a good frame for the album because the tunes are short but can also be grand in a way - just not in length."

The concept was both a personal challenge for Hollenbeck as a composer always dealing with a wealth of ideas, but also a reaction to a tendency in modern music toward the epic. "I'm feeling things in the opposite direction," the composer explains. "When tunes are longer, there tend to be moments when not a whole lot is happening. If you have a really short tune, the whole thing has to be compelling."


[The Claudia Quintet | photo credit: Signe Maehler]

Nowhere is that principle better exemplified than in “Pure Poem,” which clocks in at under two minutes but is the most difficult piece the quintet has ever recorded. It was inspired by “Pure Poem 1007-1103” by Japanese poet Shigeru Matsui, which consists solely of sequences of Roman numerals and was used by controversial poet Kenneth Goldsmith to illustrate his theory of “Uncreative Writing.”

Hollenbeck draws inspiration from a number of diverse sources throughout Super Petite, including two unrecognizable interpretations of classic jazz – which, in its earliest years, demanded short songs due to the limitations of the day’s recording media. The mesmerizing “Nightbreak,” which opens the album, is built upon a slowed-down translation of Charlie Parker’s famous break in “Night of Tunisia,” while “Philly” transforms an infamous Philly Joe Jones lick into an exercise in bebop deconstruction.

Two variations on the same theme, “JFK Beagle” and “Newark Beagle”, were sparked by the contraband-sniffing dogs that patrol the international baggage claim area of airports. They are the living embodiment of Super Petite – utterly adorable but all business. “My problem is I want to pet the beagles but they’re so focused on that one thing,” Hollenbeck laments. “That piece began as a portrait, a combination of being really cute but staying focused. I don't know exactly what that would sound like musically, but that’s the challenge. In the end it doesn’t really matter to me if it happens or not, because it still leads me into a certain world.” In this case, the idea of international travel inspired Hollenbeck to use his passport number as a series of pitches that formed the basis for the pieces.


[The Claudia Quintet | photo credit: Piero Ribelli]

Similarly, “If You Seek a Fox” began life as a dig at the composer’s least favorite 24-hour cable news network, then morphed into an aural description of the eponymous animal. “A-List” began with an even more fantastical scenario, imagining the Claudia Quintet walking the red carpet. (“Think Entourage meets the Geek Squad,” as Hollenbeck wryly puts it in his liner notes.) If the tune’s urgent pulse is unlikely to attract the paparazzi, it’s nonetheless a compelling mood piece that Hollenbeck insists “feels almost like a Led Zeppelin tune in our heads.”

“Peterborough” was written in the titular New Hampshire town, where Hollenbeck spent six idyllic weeks in the fall of 2014 as a resident artist at the famed MacDowell Colony. It was there that Aaron Copland composed his Pulitzer-winning “Appalachian Spring,” which inspired the hint of Coplandesque American optimism in Hollenbeck’s combination of clarinet and vibes. The residency also provided the opportunity to explore the work of master Senegalese drummer/composer Doudou N’Diaye Rose, whose “Rose Rhythm” forms the basis for Hollenbeck’s “Rose-Colored Rhythm.”

Hollenbeck describes the MacDowell Colony as “a beautiful space where you can do whatever you want all day and no one bothers you. You can work hard all day on something, but you can also get out and ride a bike or run if you want. Then in the evening you see all these other people from different disciplines who have been doing the same thing as you, talk about what they’re doing, go to bed and do it all again the next day.”

The album concludes with “Mangolds,” a mood piece built from a slow, elongated melody line named for Hollenbeck’s favorite vegetarian restaurant in Graz, Austria, where he worked with the renowned Jazz Bigband Graz on his 2006 release Joys and Desires.

PROMOTIONAL TRACK //
If you'd like to share music from this release, please feel free to use the following track:
"JFK Beagle": @SoundCloud / @Bandcamp / @YouTube

PRE-ORDER LINKS
//
ITUNES - AMAZON - BANDCAMP - WAYSIDE MUSIC

ARTIST WEB SITES //
www.claudiaquintet.com - www.johnhollenbeck.com/band/the-claudia-quintet - www.facebook.com/ClaudiaQuintet/ - www.twitter.com/claudiaquintet


---

CLAUDIA QUINTET RELEASES ON CUNEIFORM

"The Claudia Quintet...is one of the most exciting groups in contemporary jazz. ...Each of the discs comes at you with the force of a manifesto: this band knows exactly what it is about, and the compositions charge forward with inevitability. ... the band now sounds so thoroughly integrated and seamless that you'd think it was a tenor-trumpet quintet or a 16-piece big band. ...The Claudia Quintet, inimitable, deserves to inspire."
- Will Layman, PopMatters




The Claudia Quintet
September
[2013, Rune 377]
Amazon - iTunes
Bandcamp - Wayside


The Claudia Quintet
What is the Beautiful?
[2011, Rune 327]
Amazon - iTunes
Bandcamp - Wayside


The Claudia Quintet
Royal Toast (with Gary Versace)
[2010, Rune 307]
Amazon - iTunes
Bandcamp - Wayside


The Claudia Quintet
For
[2007, Rune 247]
Amazon - iTunes
Bandcamp - Wayside


The Claudia Quintet
Semi-Formal
[2005, Rune 217]
Amazon - iTunes
Bandcamp - Wayside


The Claudia Quintet
I, Claudia
[2004, Rune 187]
Amazon - iTunes
Bandcamp - Wayside

--

www.cuneiformrecords.com
www.twitter.com/cuneiformrecord
www.facebook.com/cuneiformrecords
www.soundcloud.com/cuneiformrecords
www.youtube.com/CuneiformRecords

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Boston-Based Art-Rockers, Bent Knee, Embark on Spring/Summer 2016 Tour of North America and Europe

Boston-Based Art-Rockers
- Bent Knee -
Embark on Spring/Summer 2016 Tour of
North America and Europe Celebrating
their Cuneiform debut,
Say So,
a World-Class Album
Brimming with Catchy, Captivating Songs
That Channel the Best from Rock’s Spectrum,
from Pop to the Avant Garde


[Bent Knee | photo credit: Chris Anderson]

// BENT KNEE - TOUR DATES: 2016 //



June 2
8PM
USA Empire
575 Congress St
Portland, ME 04101
June 4
8PM
USA Lyric Hall
827 Whalley Ave
New Haven, CT 06515
June 5
8PM
USA News Cafe
43 Broad St
Pawtucket, RI 02860
June 8
8PM
USA Bube’s Brewery
102 N Market St
Mount Joy, PA 17552
June 9
11PM
USA The Bowery Electric
327 Bowery
NYC, NY 10003
June 10
8PM
USA private concert
Worcester, OH
[contact band for details]
June 11
8PM
USA Louie’s Back Room
629 Walbridge St
Kalamazoo, MI 49007
June 12
9PM
USA Ladder 11
936 Brown St
Dayton, OH 45409
June 13
9PM
USA miniBar
3810 Broadway
Kansas City, MO 64111
June 16
8PM
USA Elbo Room
647 Valencia St.
San Francisco, CA 94110
June 17
8PM
USA SLG Art Boutiki
44 Race St
San Jose, CA 95126
June 18
9PM
USA Black Forest
50 E 11th Ave
Eugene, OR 97401
June 19
9PM
USA Twilight Cafe
1420 SE Powell Blvd
Portland, Oregon 97202
June 20
8PM
USA Victory Lounge
433 Eastlake Ave E
Seattle, WA 98109
June 21
9PM
USA Coo Coo Nest
1017 East 1st St
Port Angeles, WA
June 22
8PM
CANADA The Vault
499 Wallace St
Nanaimo, BC V9R 5B7, Canada
June 25
8PM







June 26
9pm
CANADA








CANADA
Campbell Bay Music Festival
Iredale Farm
327 Campbell Bay Road
Mayne Island, B.C.
Canada

Franklin Studios
1622 Franklin
Vancouver, B.C.
V5L 1P4
July 28 






July 30
GERMANY






ITALY
Burg Herzberg Festival
Hof Huhnstadt
Breitenbach Am Herzberg
Germany
 
La Casa di Alex - Alex Etxea
Via Moncalieri 5, 20162 Milan, Italy


August 4 CZECH REP. Eurocentrum
Jiráskova 9
Jablonec Nad Nisou
46601 
Czech Republic

---



Bent Knee
Say So


Cat. #: Rune 417, Format: CD [8-Panel Digipak] / Digital Download
Genre: Rock / Indie Rock / Art-Rock / Pop / Avant-Progressive

"A welcoming call to music fans who savor the very special. An accusation that there are too many ideas in a work of art is dispelled when they are mostly good ones, as is the case with Bent Knee and 'Say So.'”
-
The Wall Street Journal

"Expansive, genre-exploding avant rock."
- Bandcamp ["New and Notable"]

"...a celebration of creative freedom and unrestricted musicianship... easily one of the best albums of the year."
- Rebel Noise

"Mind boggling... the grandest and subtlest ideas are on the table."
- NPR's The ARTery

"...a record that confirms its eloquence and ebullience, while also breaking new stylistic and temperamental ground."
- The Boston Globe

"Like the best birthday party you’ve had in years."
- Goldmine Magazine


STREAM/SHARE: "Leak Water"
stream: @SoundCloud / @Bandcamp / @YouTube

MUSIC VIDEOS

[WATCH: Bent Knee - Leak Water (Official Video)]


[WATCH: Bent Knee - Black Tar Water (Official Video)]


Say So Track Listing:

1. Black Tar Water (3:29)
2. Leak Water (4:41)
3. Counselor (5:51)
4. Eve (9:12)
5. Transition (0:49)
6. The Things You Love (6:12)
7. Nakami (5:20)
8. Commercial (3:44)
9. Hands Up (5:40)
10. Good Girl (6:39)

Bent Knee
Ben Levin: guitar and vocals
Chris Baum: violin
Courtney Swain: vocals and keyboards
Gavin Wallace-Ailsworth: drums
Jessica Kion: bass and vocals
Vince Welch: synths and sounds

Additional performances by:
Andy Bergman
: alto sax and clarinet
Ben Swartz: cello
Bryan Murphy: trumpet
Geni Skendo: flute and shakuhachi
Geoff Nielsen: trombone
Keith Dickerhofe: cello
Nathan Cohen: violin
Sam Morrison: baritone sax
Rebecca Hallowell: viola

Group vocals for “Counselor” and “The Things You Love”
Alessandra Cugno, Andrew Humphries, Anil Prasad, Celine Ferro, Clint Degan, Curtis Hartshorn, Geni Skendo, James Willetts, Jeri Schibelli, Jessie Vitale, Josh Golberg, Kelsey Devlin, Leilani Roser, Leo Fonseca, Mary Freedlund, Max Freedlund, Michael Vitale, Mike Razo, Miriam Olken, Peter Danilchuk, Rebecca Hallowell, Roland Rotsitaille, Ryan Jackson, Sam Swan, Stephen Humphries, Susan Putnins, Tim Doherty, Toni Schibelli, Tori Bedford

Written and performed by Bent Knee.
Produced and mixed by Vince Welch.
Engineered by Matt Beaudoin at Q Division Sound.
Additional engineering by Chris McLaughlin and Vince Welch.
Assistant engineering by Grace Reader, Griffin Bach, Jamie Rowe, Joel Edinberg, Matt Carlson, Michael Healy, and Steven Xia.

Mastered by Randy Roos at Squam Sound.

Recorded at Q Division Studios, The Record Company, and Converse Rubber Tracks, Boston.

Album art by Greg Bowen.


"Bent Knee's musicianship is superb, with vocals to die for, an interesting new turn at every corner, and never a dull moment. Highly recommended."
- Bill Bruford

"Say So resoundingly demonstrates the increasing refinement and confidence of a group that doesn't quite fit any conventional pigeonhole, with emphatic crunch, a knack for complexity, mixed with lively wit."
- The Boston Globe

"...the new fantastic Bent Knee record... Brilliant! This band will soon be everywhere!"
- Nik Bärtsch

“Intricately woven, surrealist stylings... a potent sense of urgency tingles the air.”
- Consequence of Sound

Bent Knee is a band without frontiers. The Boston-based group seamlessly connects the worlds of rock, pop and the avant-garde into its own self-defining statement. On its Cuneiform debut release Say So, the band focuses on the sound of surprise. It’s rock for the thinking person. The group’s lyrics are dark and infused with themes focusing on the emergence of personal demons, unwanted situations and the difficulty of conquering them. Its mercurial sound matches its subject matter. It’s a thrilling aural roller-coaster ride with arrangements designed to make listeners throw their arms up in wild abandon as they engage with them.

Say So resoundingly demonstrates the increasing refinement and confidence of a group that doesn’t quite fit any conventional pigeonhole, with emphatic crunch, a knack for complexity, mixed with lively wit,” said Steve Smith of The Boston Globe. “Live, the band projects visceral glee, exactingly harmonized and wholly infectious.”

Founded in 2009, Bent Knee is a true collective. The band operates as a democratic entity with sky-high standards and a determination to push boundaries. Frontwoman and keyboardist Courtney Swain’s acrobatic, multi-octave vocals are nothing less than extraordinary. Guitarist Ben Levin morphs between the hauntingly melodic and extreme, dissonant sonics—sometimes within a single verse or passage. Bassist Jessica Kion and drummer Gavin Wallace-Ailsworth deliver deep and thunderous grooves, full of engaging, intriguing ornamentation. Violinist Chris Baum’s driving melodic overlays and atmospheres further take the band’s sound into wild territory. And all of it is brilliantly processed and produced by sound designer Vince Welch.

Bent Knee has remained on a skyward trajectory since forming. Its last two albums, 2014’s Shiny Eyed Babies and its self-titled 2011 release, have been celebrated as significant art-rock achievements by important music publications, including Consequence of Sound, The Needle Drop, Innerviews, and Eclipsed. The group has performed more than 300 shows across the U.S., Canada and Japan to date and will embark on its first European tour this year. They’ve also headlined at major festivals and venues including The Lincoln Center, ROSfest, Tulsa Center of the Universe, and Campbell Bay Music Fest.

“What Bent Knee does is fuse the most extreme ends of pop and avant-garde music together,” says Welch. “We feel those things aren’t nearly as mutually exclusive as most people think.”

“When I listen back to Say So, I think it’s the most accessible thing Bent Knee has ever done,” continues Wallace-Ailsworth. “But other times, I think it’s the strangest thing Bent Knee has ever done. For instance, ‘Leak Water’ is a relatively linear rock tune by our standards, whereas ‘Eve’ is a sprawling, epic with radical twists and turns. I think the album reflects the full spectrum of our diverse musical personalities.”

Those extremes are also mirrored in the album’s lyrical themes.

“On Say So, we’re looking at the bigger picture and figuring out where we as individuals stand and how we carve out meaning in this giant universe,” explains Baum. “The album art captures that idea too. It’s why it features a figure lost in the woods, surrounded by darkness but looking out into the light.”

Even with those signifiers and aims, the band prefers its lyrics to be wide open to interpretation. It feels both listeners and the group itself benefit from that perspective.

“I’ve had listeners come up to me and say ‘Good Girl’ from Say So is a strong statement against women being patronized or oppressed and that hit me really hard,” says Swain. “It’s possible to consider those lyrics in that context, and that perspective helped me connect even more closely with the song. How people perceive our songs helps enrich and refresh the pieces for us as we perform them over time.”


[Bent Knee | photo credit: Chris Anderson]

One of the elements that significantly distinguishes Bent Knee is its adventurous arrangements. Each track is a true journey. In fact, pieces like “Eve” and “Counselor” are so diverse they reflect an almost “songs-within-a-song” approach.

“We try not to repeat ourselves within our structures,” says Kion. “If we find we’re creating a pattern such as ramping into a loud section and landing in a soft section right after it twice in a row, we’ll break it as soon as we notice it. We don't want to bore ourselves. We also want to surprise and intrigue listeners. We’re always trying to do new things with arrangements.”

“Another thing that stands out for us on Say So is that there are more dynamics within the sections of each piece,” adds Levin. “On previous albums, there were huge dynamic differences between sections. You’d hear songs that alternate between quiet passages, explosions, grooves, and long builds. On Say So, within a section, you’ll hear a lot more variety of loud and quiet, fullness and emptiness, ambience and dryness, and timbre changes. If you drew the dynamic arc of some of these pieces, it would look kind of like a Rorschach inkblot.”

Adding to Say So’s intrigue is the group’s decision to record some of the album in an unconventional space.

“A friend of ours pointed us to an empty, unlocked, million-square foot industrial complex in Boston,” says Baum. “We went in there to record so we could explore its unique sonic atmosphere. It felt like zombies were going to jump out anytime. It was a foreboding locale and gave the session a distinctly dark vibe. We captured some wild, reverb-drenched background vocals there.”

Prior to hitting the studio, the band road-tested Say So’s material at more than 50 gigs.

“It was extremely valuable to see how the pieces went over with audiences,” says Swain. “Playing live also gives all six of us a comprehensive understanding of where we sit in the registers of the songs, enabling us to adjust where the instruments fit in the mix. It’s also important for us to see how the lyrical motifs go over. The songs would be presented 70-80 percent finished to the audiences, leaving us with room to evolve the approach before finalizing them.”

Say So is a world-class album on every level. The band collectively obsessed over every detail in its determination to set a new standard for itself and the universe of ambitious songcraft.

“We now live in a time in which pretty much anyone in the Western world has access to the vast majority of recordings online,” says Welch. “So, the competition for musicians isn’t just the band down the street anymore. The competition is bands as big as Radiohead. To have a shot at success you have to aim to be that good. But even that’s not enough. You have to be patient and work at building up your audience like we’ve done for the last seven years. One of our mentors, the producer Susan Rogers, said to us ‘Slow growth is real growth.’ It’s advice we’ve taken to heart across this journey.”

That journey has now brought them into Cuneiform’s orbit—a transition the band is thrilled with on every level.

“It means a lot for us to be on Cuneiform because of the incredibly high standards of the other artists on the roster,” says Levin. “It’s a world where music is treated as art. Working with Cuneiform means we can make the music we love and connect with a lot of like-minded listeners. It’s fantastic to be in such great company, both in terms of the musicians they work with, as well as the uncompromising vision the label adheres to.”

PROMOTIONAL TRACK //
If you'd like to share music from this release, please feel free to use the following track:
"Leak Water": @SoundCloud / @Bandcamp / @YouTube

PURCHASE LINKS
//
ITUNES - AMAZON - BANDCAMP - WAYSIDE MUSIC

ARTIST WEB SITES //
www.bentkneemusic.com - Bent Knee on Facebook - Bent Knee on Twitter
Bent Knee on CuneiformRecords.com